Each member of the Georgetown City Council took a few moments during its meeting Monday to voice support for the police and other first responders.
Last week, Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse said he was concerned about losing officers to neighboring communities due to differences in the wage scales and suggested the council take a vote of confidence and pledge that once the pandemic was over the salary issues would be addressed. The News-Graphic emailed each council member through city hall asking if they would be willing to make such a statement with five members answering in the time allowed before press time. Those responses were published in the July 24 edition.
The three council members who did not respond initially — Polly Singer-Eardley, Karen Tingle-Sames and Marvin Thompson — each added they would support such a statement and each stressed their support for first responders.
“Once again, headlines about the status of our law enforcement,” said Mayor Tom Prather. “While this current focus seems to be on law enforcement, I remind everybody the research we completed just before the pandemic hit made the case for all first first responders and in fact, all of our departments.
“I just want to take a moment during my comments to completely affirm everything Chief Bosse has brought to our attention. I think those messages are consistent with the analysis that we did and presented to the council. We have done our homework and the council has done their homework, but for a global pandemic I believe we would have already addressed this problem.”
The commitments are still there and the recent spike in gun violence shows the need is still there, the mayor said.
“I was pleased in one sense the issue gets the attention of the public and drew such a positive response from the majority of council members,” Prather said.
“Very surprising to me, for the first time in a long time, I’ve had citizens contact me in support of an additional funding and in support of the revenue it requires. This council has the benefit of knowing the solution and we also know the solution will require some form of revenue.
“What Chief Bosse and other first responders have asked us about, can we make a statement? Can we as an administration and you, as a council, can we make a statement of support acknowledging the need and making some form of commitment to address that. I feel as though we have done that in meetings and we‘ve done it in public comments, but at a time when we are in danger of losing officers, when we are not in a position to immediately address the salary issue, how much of a statement can we give?”
Because it was a special-called meeting — due to it being on Zoom and not in-person — Prather said only action actually on the agenda could be addressed. Even so, the mayor said he would ask with the council’s permission to have the city attorney and first responder supervisors to develop a statement that would satisfy and be legal.
“There’s not a one council member that does not support the police department,” Tingle-Sames said. “Things have changed so much just in the last two months. It’s not a political statement, it’s not a political football to pass around. It’s a must at this point in time.
“You know I have preached the things that are happening in Seattle, things happening in other cities will eventually come to Georgetown. If it were to come to Georgetown right now, we aren’t prepared for it. So, we do have to come up with something that we can do now. “
There are line items in the budget that might be moved around to give a small raise now, Tingle-Sames said.
“As far as I’m concerned the police chief wants this statement because it makes the guys and gals feel better if we came out and said, ‘yes, we support the police department and yes, we want to start working on a long-term plan,’ then I’m all for that. I don’t have a problem with it.”
A possible permanent revenue source might be a 9-1-1 user fee attached to city cell phones, she said.
“it should go into a public safety line item,” on the budget, she said.
Finance committee member David Lusby said he and Connie Tackett were looking into the 9-1-1 fee and other revenue options, and developing a plan to present to the council when the time was right.
“I assure you, we are working on a plan,” Lusby said. “Hopefully, the council will be satisfied with, and it may be sooner rather than later."
Despite the challenges faced by the police department, they have worked the recent increase in gun violence incidents hard and took it personally, and brought them to a conclusion, Prather said.
“When the rubber hits the road is when we bring you the revenue requirements to do this,” Prather said. “We’ve voted no on some minor tax increases lately, but when we come with that solution, I’ll take the lead and just say it, ‘it will stake some increases in revenue.’”